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absorbed people, constantly on the make to impress with their misplaced cleverness and smug, hipper-than-thou attitudes. This is true at book’s start, and true at book’s end, making for a distasteful trajectory to nowhere. Marion Winik “assembles” close circles of friends, described variously as “artists,” “funny blond lesbians,” and “writing workshop friends.” Everyone here has a tag, and all tags point to Winik as a collector of “interesting people.” After her wedding, babies are “the next item” on Winik’s “agenda.” Winik’s “weird” haircuts and almost inexcusable taste in “cutting edge music” are considered worthy topics of consideration, or at least repetition. Winik cannot buy Tony a suit without mentioning place of purchase and price, and nobody in the book can do so much as put water on to boil without Winik piping in to identify the “the Museum of Modern Art tea kettle Steven had given her for her last birthday.” Much too much ink is devoted to the accoutrements of the couple’s conspicuous consumption. A condo, for instance: “…hidden on a quiet intersection up a saltillo-tiled flight of steps, and [featuring] a bedroom and bath on either end of an Lshaped living and dining area with a narrow kitchenette. It was small but lovely, with wooden fans hanging from cathedral ceilings, lots of windows, trendy wallpaper, and pedestal sinks in the bathrooms. The walls and carpets and counters were all silvergray, our furnishings black and turquoise. Tony was in his anti-wood phase; even our dining table was a smoky shade of purple blue formica, with matching upholstered banquettes on two sides. It was perfect with our new Italian pottery plates.” Who, one cannot help but ask, cares? This is prose straight out of realtor school, and it illustrates nothing but Winik’s obsession with stuff. First Comes Love is full of stuff, and what’s not stuffthe humanity that ought to be the book’s backbone is reduced to stuff as fast as Winik can accessorize it. Which is blindingly fast. I can hear the cries of the overly-sensitive, their critical kneecaps bludgeoned by pangs of sympathy. How can you criticize an author who so obviously has been through so much pain, an author with the courage to bare that pain? Here’s how: because the author’s pain smacks of self-aggrandizement, and her courage reads like that of a public relations director with one clientherself. Since I am sure that selfaggrandizement could not have been amongst Winik’s motives in writing this book, I have to conclude that she’s failed her subject at some several critical junctures. One such juncture in particular stands out as representative. Heubach is soon to die, and Winik confronts the idea of it in prose bruised purple. “I would be knocked over with the agony of having to lose him, and always my next thought would be the boys. Thinking of them losing their father filled me with not just sorrow, but rage and fear. My poor, poor babies. This was not the story I wanted for them, but I was helpless to change it, helpless to prevent this cruel event from leaving its unimaginable mark on their lives.” But then, in the very next paragraph, a mere quarter of an inch down the page, she adopts an almost chirpy tone. “In contrast to the increasing chaos and disaster at home, things were looking up for my writing. In January I received the fellowships I’d applied for and signed with a literary agent who had heard me on the radio. In February, she sold a collection of my essays to a publisher in New York, and I cut down to three days a week at work. I needed time to finish my manuscript and I finally had the money to do it.” WHAT IS A READER supposed to do with these passages, one after another? Grieve with Winik and her children over the cruelty of death? Or congratulate her good fortune? In the end, paralyzed by the obvious demand for sympathy, Winik’s equally hardto-ignore self-centeredness, and the book’s bleak and total lack of any sort of redemption whatsoever, a reader can only sigh and ponder the sole mystery posed by Winik’s trek through the mirrored cave of her own navel: what the hell was that agent thinking? ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip This is Texas today. A state full of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, oil and as companies, nuclear weapons and power plants, political hucksters, underpaid workers and toxic wastes, to mention a few. s .—–, .,,,,,,,,,, \(4.14k ………. 74′ a” c “41;’ ‘;”,,. -I’ 4.7 0″ -, –4 do , .”-ir r li N,, ..7 ab, ‘S 1.-.. ?o ar to: 1r/ .0. DO NOT DESPAIR! SUBSCRIBE TO n ob ,THE TEXAS 141 server Name Address City State Zip $32 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. 307 West 7th, Austin, TX 78701 Anyone who’s ever been driven out of a bar by the desperate histrionics of a failing theatre major will recognize Winik’s dominant chord. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17